German Beer is Overrated and Here's Why
I’m finally home in the beautiful city of Seattle! I just wrapped up a 25-day tour around Germany. Ostensibly, it was a business trip to do research for the blog and party with German beer on the company dime! As far as you know, this company does indeed have more than a single dime, so that is the story I’m going with. Ready to hear about what I learned?
For centuries, German beer has eclipsed American beer. German national pride in their beer is evident in their Oktoberfest celebrations and regional beers like kolshes from Koln and Bavarian Weissbier from… ahem, Bavaria. You’ll surely hear about it if you are ever in Germany, and even if you never go you’ll hear about it from a German relative or local beer snob who claims that it’s true, German beer is better than American beer by a landslide. They’ll say “oh our beer is so much stronger than yours and it actually has flavor” and any nearby Canadians will happily chime in to add that “indeed, even Canadian beer is better than American” though they are quick to admit they still pale in comparison to the Germans. And you, as the lowly American will be defeated, forced to resign that, while we invented the internet and the iPhone, we simply cannot beat the old timers in beer quality. At least this is what the Germans, Canadians, and Belgians would have you believe! Fear not fellow Americans, the Cycling Cicerone is here with a first-hand account and an airtight argument that you can fire back when presented next with the foolhardy and stubborn claim that American beer is worse than German (that’s right, I said “American.” I’m not going to call it “The States” to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of another hostel going Canadian who claims “well technically we are ‘American’ too”.)
Before I go on, I do have to give the Germans credit where credit is due. They invented lagering, lager capable yeast, and the delicious smooth flavor of a cold fermentation. They also invented Kolshe, that feisty combination of ale and lager which is just sublime and certainly best enjoyed in Koln, Germany. And alas, I have to admit that I never got to visit Dusseldorf to try the Altbier or the Gose of Goslar, which is a real treat of a style even when brewed here in America. 25 days just wasn’t enough to explore all that Germany has to offer the beer world. Beer lovers owe them a great deal, and you would be forgiven for not even reading the rest of this article, and instead of kissing the feet of the next German you meet and thanking them profusely, calmly and quietly accepting their judgmental stares. With that said, here are my counters to the favorite claims of the Germans and other lovers of German beers.
- German Beer is more flavorful and stronger
This is such a broad claim! Of course, it is true when you compare it to Bud Light, and even it’s allegedly more flavorful brother, Bud Heavy. But that isn’t even American beer. That company is based in Belgium now, so technically you just compared German beer to Belgian beer, and I don’t have time to go into how Germany loses that one. American beer has hops, hops and more hops. We love our IPAs, which we have basically taken over from the British who invented them, and the Double IPA is firmly the creation of hop-crazed American West Coastians. Even middle of the road versions of those have more flavor and alcohol content than the strongest beer of Bavaria.
- German Beer is made for drinking mass quantities
That was a pun. “Mass” is the German word for a liter of beer. Moving on. Americans can have it all! Our industrial beers are ultimately chuggable, so much so that we invented ridiculous ways to drink them faster. Things like keg stands, beer bongs, and shotgunning. We didn’t invent those, you say? Well, I checked Wikipedia and unless your research techniques are better than THAT, then you can’t prove me wrong. German beer is flavorful, strong, AND chuggable you say? That is quite the triple threat, and my response to that is once again American craft brew. American brewed versions of the same German styles always beat the originals like Mewtwo’s clones in Pokemon The First Movie. Not that anything is still chuggable after 7 liters, which was my maximum during an entire day of drinking in the Oktoberfest tents.
- Germans have the Reinheitsgebot
If they say this one, then you’ve got them right where you want them. The so-called and much touted “German Beer Purity Law” is nothing more than a taxation scheme to keep brewers from using anything other than the easily taxed ingredients of barley and hops. Perhaps a little more: it might have also been used by the church to keep pagans from using ingredients found to be unsavory. Other than that it’s done a great job of keeping creative and new beer varieties in Czech. That was another pun. Czech beer, mainly the pilsner, is a beer easy to brew on the Reinheitsgebot and it could be easily argued that this law set the foundation for the style’s dominance all over the world. I don’t appreciate that fact at all. Strike 3 Germans.
To all this, you might say “but Mr.Cycling, you’ve just compared German mass-market industrial beer to local American craft beers! You can’t compare the two, they are completely different!” To this, I say the comparison would have been unfair 50 years ago when craft brewing was just beginning to claw its way out of the tide pools. Back then, horrible mass market Budweiser was all that filled the fridges of Americans, and flavorful craft was but a rumor. Now, craft beer is more a part of our culture than ever before. It is rapidly growing, enough that big beer is shaking in its boots. Craft beer is the beer of America, more than Bud Light ever was. Germans have craft breweries too where amazing beer is brewed. Unfortunately, they aren’t very popular, are hard to find, and closed on Sundays. That last one is a minor point, but I’m making it because that made me very mad when I was trying to day-drink on the weekend.
I think German beer is overrated. Think I’m wrong? Are you German and want to fight? Been to Germany and think I’m full of it? I’ll admit again that I didn’t get to drink the full breadth of German beer in Germany. Our beer (and everyone’s) evolved from German beer or at least owes something to those roots. But if one more European tells me that American beer is bad, I will physically fight you. Unless they are Belgian. I spent all of six hours in Brussels and I am not certified to comment on how legit Belgian beer is. Comment, like, get a puppy. Thanks for reading!